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we must observe it is not said that they will be wholly consumed and annihilated, but dissolved or burned, and consequently transformed into a different appearance, as God shall direct.
But while these stupendous operations of fire are subverting nature, and changing the whole face of the universe, the Son of man descends from the highest heaven to come and judge mankind. For, “the Father doth not judge any man; but hath given all judgment to the Son. John v. 22.
Apoc. xx. 11. “And I saw," says St. John, “a great white throne, and one sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away and there was no place found for
V. 12. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened : and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
The son of God appears in the firmament seated on a great and bright white throne, and at his presence the earth and heaven flee away, or disappear, that is, the earth, the atmosphere, and all belonging to the sky, are not only enwrapped in flames; but entirely pass away and vanish out of sight, so that their place is not found nor can be distinguished. Nothing is now visible of the works of the creation. The sole object that fills the expanse of heaven, is the resplendent majesty of the Son of God sitting on his throne. The dead then, both great and small, of all ranks and degrees, appear before him, namely, the last generation of the human race, who have just expired in the general destruction of the world. This prodigious multitude of souls are summoned to undergo the particular judgment which is fixed for all mankind at the hour of their death. “ It is appointed unto men once to die, after this, the judgment.” Ep. to the Hebr. ix. 27. This particular judgment must be here meant by St. John, and not the general judgment which is described in the next verse, as our prophet never repeats the same thing. The books are opened, and will remain open during the general judgment that is quickly to follow. In these books are recorded the actions of every individual man, according to which sentence will be passed upon him. The Son of God, from his own infinite knowledge, is equally acquainted with the works of every man, as if they were registered in a book; but this figurative expression shows the rigour and exactness of his scrutiny, which will not let the least fault or good work escape his notice. Another book is likewise opened, viz. the book of life, in which are written the names of all the predestined or elect.
This numerous company of souls being therefore judged by those things which were written in the books according to their works, Christ sends forth his messenger, an archangel, who by his order blows the last trumpet; the sound of which echoes to all the extremities of the earth. At this sound, in an instant, all the dead rise up from their graves, never more to die. “In a moment,” says St. Paul,“ in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet yet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible.” i Cor. xv. 52 The general resurrection is likewise thus briefly described to us by St. John:
Apoc. xx. 13. “And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them.” The sea is first here said to deliver up its dead. By the sea, in our prophet's language, we must understand the whole extent of the terraqueous globe, in as inuch as it contains the dead bodies of the saints, who may be said to have waded through the tempestuous sea of this world, or through a long course of tribulations, persecutions, and hardships, which sanctified their lives. Their bodies therefore rise up the first, and this is confirmed by St. Paul : “ The dead who are in Christ, shall rise first." 1 Thes. iv. 15. Heaven presents their souls, and by the happy union of soul and body, the saints stand vested with complete immortality. Then death and hell give up their dead; death here signifying the graves of the wicked, as containing the mortal part of those whose souls lie in the death of damnation. These bodies likewise rise to life, and are joined to their souls which hell vomits up, and thus they become inseparable companions of the same eternal fate which they will soon be doomed to undergo. Every individual of mankind being thus raised to life, from Adam to the last of the human race, they will all see the Almighty Son of God coming down through the upper regions of the sky, seated on bright clouds as upon a throne, surrounded with the splendour of his divine Majesty, attended by the angels, and his cross, the instrument of the world's redemption, carried before him: “And then," says Christ himself, “shall appear the sign of the Son of man in hea. ven: and then shall all tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven
with much power and majesty.” Matt. xxiv. 30. And our prophet in the Apocalypse also says of him: “Behold he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth shall bewail themselves because of him," i. 7. The appearance then of the Son of God coming in his majesty to judga ment will strike the wicked with dread and consternation.
The different tribes of them will mourn and bewail their miserable condition: the Jews, that pierced him or put him to death, and those who had refused to acknowledge him for their Saviour and Messiah: the infidels, who would not be converted, and who had persecuted him in his servants; in fine, the rest of the wicked, who had made no use of the redemption he had purchased for them, but on the contrary had heinously injured him by their repeated crimes and impiety. But on the other hand, what a consolation, what an auspicious moment, will it be for the just, to see their Redeemer coming to reward them, and to make their happiness complete, for all eternity! They will fly to meet him, as their Father and Saviour, with inexpressible alacrity and joy; as we learn from St. Paul: “The Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.” 1 Thes. iv. 15, 16.
All the individuals of the human race appear now existing at once and together, a wonderful spectacle that never was seen before, nor will be seen after. For this great company will soon be divided into two bodies that must separate, never more to be joined. They are called up and cited to appear at the bar of the throne and judgment-seat of the Son of God. There “they are judged every one according to their works.” Apoc. xx. 13. To the just are adjudged eternal rewards for their labours: and this may be styled, the second resurrection, as the prior admission of their souls to beatitude, on the death of their bodies, 'was called by St. John, “the first resur: rection." Apoc, xx. 5. The saints having thus received their happy sentence, are admitted to attend Christ and to sit with him in judgment over the wicked, according to what he had promised: “Amen, I say unto you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging
wine of them; and shall make gardens, and eat the fruits of them. And I will plant them upon their own land : and I will no more pluck them out of their land, which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” Such is this remarkable æra of peace, prosperity, and spiritual blessings.
One may naturally suppose that the Christians, at their emerging from the severe trials they had been subjected to, were uncommonly full of zeal and religious fervour: and so it seems to be intimated by the above-cited passages out of the prophets. But the human mind from its native inconstancy soon forgets the greatest troubles, when they are passed. Prosperity also is a charm generally productive of inattention and neglect, and contributes much to revive in man his natural propensity to licentiousness. Such will be the case of this last period of time, in which mankind will gradually relax in their fervour, and degenerate in their morals. Our Saviour has told us to beware of the last day, to watch, and he ready to appear before him at the bar of judgment: “ Watch ye," says he, “ because ye know not what hour your Lord will come. Be you ready, because at what hour ye know not, the Son of man will come.” Matt. xxiv. 42, 44. And again he speaks in the Apocalypse :-“ Behold I come as a thief," xvi. 15. St. Peter also gives us the same warning: “ The day of the Lord will come as a thief.” 2 Pet. iii. !). But these admonitions will by degrees lose their influence, and be forgotten, the human passions will recover their power, and the pleasures of the world will become again the common pursuit of men; as we learn from our Saviour's own words; “ As in days of Noe," says he, “ so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that in which Noe entered into the ark. And they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away: so also shall the coming of the Son of man be.” Matt. xxiv. 37, 38, 39. Thus then the generality of mankind having degenerated into a state of forgetfulness of God, employed now in indulging themselves in sensual gratifications, unmindful of all the ominous alarming signs that had preceded, and the repeated admonitions given them, Behold! The seventh seal is opened.
THE HISTORY OF THE SEVENTH AGE OF THE CHRISTIAN
The seventh Seal is opened.
Apoc. viii. 1. “ And when he (the Lamb) had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven, as it were for half an hour.” The Lamb having opened the seventh seal, there follows a silence in heaven for a while, in appearance about half an hour. During this time the Almighty thinks fit to disclose to the whole heavenly court of angels and saints, his eternal and inscrutable decrees respecting mankind and the existence of this world.* The heavenly auditory attend in silence and with profound respect, while he graciously unfolds to them the whole system of economy, by which he has governed the world ever since its creation, and the whole course of his great and inerciful dispensations to man. The Almighty is willing to display before them the immense and superabundant store of blessings, that have flowed from the inexhaustible source of his paternal affection upon mankind, ever since the first moment of their existence. He shows that his tenderness and bounty towards mankind have been without measure, and that if a great number of them perish, their perdition is owing to themselves. He then makes known his intention of putting an immediate stop to the whole human race, and bringing them to judgment; he signifies, that the time he had fixed for the existence of the world is now expired, and he is now going to put an end to it.f Upon which
The seventh Trumpet sounds. Chap. xi. 15. “And the seventh angel sounded the trumpet: and there were great voices in heaven, saying: the
This he does, not in words, but by secret interior communication, such as is suitable to the nature of spirits.
+ That such are, in part, the divine intimations on this occasion, may be collected from the applauses of the heavenly choirs expressed in the following trumpet. As upon the opening of the seventh seal the period of the world finishes, it is just that at that time the wise and bountiful economy of Christ through the whole government of his Church should be acknowledged. For that reason benediction or praise was solemnly offered to the Lamb. Apoc. v. 12. See page 43.